Shallow Thoughts

because deep thoughts smack of effort

Browser Wars 2.0

Posted in Web Stuff by Bridget on December 14th, 2007

Thanks to Eric Meyer and David Mead making comments via Twitter, and because of Andy Clarke’s comments on the CSS Working Group, I read that Opera and Microsoft aren’t best friends.

The press release on Opera filing an antitrust complaint against Microsoft states:

“We are filing this complaint on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them,” said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera. “In addition to promoting the free choice of individual consumers, we are a champion of open Web standards and cross-platform innovation. We cannot rest until we’ve brought fair and equitable options to consumers worldwide.”

ie7logo.jpgAs a web designer, I am aware of Internet Explorer’s flaws. I realize I am likely to be in the minority on this knowledge. The typical Windows user is unaware that other browsers exist, let alone that it doesn’t adhere to standards in optimal fashion. I get that Opera knows this and wants that to change, in particular. However, even if Microsoft provided alternative browsers bundled with Windows, I don’t know that Joe Blow would bother to use it. He’s already accustomed to looking for the big blue “e” to make the internet go.

As for making a case on giving consumers a choice to use a browser that adheres to standards: IE7 was a leap forward in standards support over IE6, but that didn’t cause the dog skin and coat supplement
mainstream surfer to make the switch. My husband still uses IE6 because he doesn't like the tabs in IE7. If he doesn't like them in IE7, he's not going to like them in Firefox or Opera. He's anti-tab!

Sure he can turn the tabs off. Do you think he knows that? Nope. I've shown him that he can turn off the tabs many moons ago. He didn't like the Favorites bar that he couldn't make go away. He also didn't like the look overall. He was used to his old Internet Explorer and wanted it back.

Granted, that's one man's opinion. A man who doesn't adjust to change easily. Contrary to what our mommies told us, we aren't that unique. How many other people are out there who are like my husband? According to the stats package tracking which browsers are used at the site where I work -- plenty. Those people may have different reasons, but they have stuck with IE6 regardless of the standards support in IE7.

General web surfers are far less concerned with support for standards than web developers/designers imagine or would like.

Now, if you push the security angle -- you might get their attention. Viruses, trojans, worms: these are terms they understand (even if not in detail). If you convince Tom, Dick and Harriet that Internet Explorer is a less secure browser than another, you might actually get them to consider switching.

Naturally, such a claim better be true before it gets used in that kind of campaign.

3 Responses to 'Browser Wars 2.0'

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  1. beth said,

    on December 14th, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Woah this is a pretty serious move for Opera! I wonder if they’ll get crushed. People are stuck in their ways, they don’t want to change browsers because they think it will force them to relearn “using the internet.”


  2. on December 14th, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Nail, on the head – if you were wondering what it is you just hit and where.

    Even if you get Joe User to try out a modern browser, the minute he comes across a site that “isn’t supported by your browser”, he thinks it’s the new browser that sucks, not the 6 year old browser and 15 year old clunky web design.

    People are still coming out of “Web Design” programs thinking Dreamweaver (or even Frontpage!) WYSIWYG is all there is to making web sites.

    If these new “web professionals” aren’t even aware of The Right Way, what hope is there for convincing people who look at their computer as nothing more than an internet machine?


  3. on December 15th, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    I know that most of the users that I work with are exactly like your husband: they don’t like change. Not even if it is for the better.

    You can explain web standards support to them until you are blue in the face, but if it looks different, they don’t want it.

    So far on my company’s site, IE7 adoption has gone quite slowly. Last month, only 26.8% of visitors were using IE 7, as opposed to 65.4% using IE 6. I believe that many of our customers only upgraded because their IT department mandated it . . . it wasn’t a voluntary thing.

    My family is the same way. I’ve tried to get them to use Firefox for ages, especially when they complain that a site doesn’t work for some reason. But they all — each and every one — refuse. They all insist that such-and-such a site requires Internet Explorer. For the most part, I know that this isn’t true, but it is an emotional argument for them. They want their nice comfy, albeit flawed, browser.

    So what’s the answer? The web development community yelled and kicked and screamed for better standards support, and we got a much improved browser. But what good is it if the people we are all developing for (M$ included) don’t want to switch to it?

    Basically, I think, we sit and wait. Eventually, IE 6 will no longer be supported. This is going to take forever, but until users are forced to switch, I don’t think they are going to.

    I have to agree, Bridget, that Opera’s move is not very likely to bear fruit. I think Opera would be wiser to focus their efforts on marketing their product and getting their browser in front of people on their own. Microsoft can’t even get people to switch to a newer version of their own browser. I doubt they are going to be able to do anything to get people to try someone else’s, even if they wanted to.

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